This is a continuation of part one.
How do you get over the biology and into the heart of things?
Next time you’re in a heated conversation with your mate, and your head gets in the middle of the chaos, and you feel like you’re trying to pull apart fighting kids, remember this: you and the other person are overreacting. You don’t need to know how or why, just know that you are. No matter what the topic, it is NOT life or death, and you CAN accept your biology, and pull yourself out of the fight-or-flight response.
Realize part of your fire, and your partner’s, comes from the passion of how deep you care. Your investment makes you care. Regardless of how tough you are, or if you are a man or a woman, you are sensitive. Your feelings and sensitivities don’t need to be understood or justified – they’re just there.
Stay vulnerable. This skill takes some practice. The Buddhists are best at teaching how to keep your heart open in the face of conflict. You let it hurt. Let it be like a good massage therapist leaning on a tight muscle. Your first response is to resist, then you decide to maybe allow her in, then you release it a bit, then it hurts more, you surrender more…. Eventually you have a relaxed muscle and a relaxed body.
As you continue to surrender to your vulnerability, and offer your vulnerability on the altar of your relationship, you will deepen your connection. This vulnerability is not weakness. It’s not giving up; it’s staying present to all your emotions and wants as you open up in the face of alienation.
I suggest that you repeat back what your partner is saying until he or she says you are saying it like they said it. This isn’t necessary, but it will build your listening skills as it strengthens your vulnerability–and she will feel heard.
For the men:
- The emotional flood. In an unconscious or instinctual way, a woman will test you to see if you can stand her emotional full expression. She uses this to test to see if you will defend her and the family (if there is one). She can’t physically spar with you, so she will test you emotionally. There will be days you will fail. But as you prove to her—and yourself—that your love is worth fighting and dying for, she will feel safe. She will back down. I have seen this in my life and with countless other men and women.
- Deer in the headlights. Most men will freeze when a woman becomes upset. I have seen powerful men stopped in their tracks by a woman crying. Know that this can happen to you, accept it, because then you can relax—and not do that third thing we instinctually do in stress, after the fight-or-flight option doesn’t work. Our third survival strategy is to “play dead.” We freeze, go into shock, unable to respond, hold our breath and mentally check out. Realize when you are doing this, choose to go beyond this response, and start expressing your feelings. The more you are able to feel the emotion as you shift your behavior, the more you will heal the past – there will be less of the biology having you pushing you to ‘survive’.
- It’s ok to be sensitive. Let go of the macho “I don’t feel; you can’t hurt me” attitude. You are being affected. If you weren’t, you would be fully present, relaxed and engaged. You are checked out, or in reaction, because you are sensitive. That said, you don’t need to be some New Age wimp. Power comes from honestly expressing yourself while in the face of feeling or reacting.
- Don’t fix! I know you want to fix her and the situation. As guys we are programmed to give advice and fix. Women HATE that when they are upset. They want to be heard. They want to know you are trying to understand how they feel, and that their emotions can affect you. Attempting to fix her or her problem comes across to a woman as an invalidation of her experience. Men know you’re offering it out love, but when women are upset, they feel attacked, like you’re saying, “There’s a simple way to fix this.” They need just room to finish feeling what they need to feel. When they’re ready for solutions, they will ASK!
- Dual attention. Here is the challenge: you need to stay open and expressive as you hold the space for full expression. Your Lover Aspect must be engaging while your Warrior stands guard, making sure there are no intruders. You are your partner’s lover, rolling around in the emotional mud with her, while standing guard providing and protecting both of you.
I realize women read these posts, so let me include a few suggests for you ladies. These are not just my interpretation of you what you should do; this list is taken from all the education I have gotten from women! Plus, this will help men better understand our partners.
For the women:
- The power of appreciations. Here is a secret to getting what you want from your man: honor him. He will do just about anything for you if you tell him how you appreciate and respect him for what he is doing. We aren’t wired to be as expressive as you are. Honor is huge for men. We die for it. I know it seems stupid from a woman’s perspective that we go to war over honor. It might be, yet we do it. You can often stop a man in his tracks with a sincere acknowledgement for a specific action. One woman friend told me, “Every time my husband gets paid, I say, ‘Thanks for working so hard for our family.’ Every time.” She expresses her feeling of being cherished and protected (she’s staying at home while their children are young), and he feels appreciated for being the provider. (By the way, she told me he always says, “Wow, thanks for cleaning the house.” It goes both ways!)
- Connect to the sensitive part. As these posts point out, no matter how tough a man appears, he is sensitive. In fact, often the most sensitive men are the ones who come across the toughest. So as your tough guy puffs up his toughness, see the scared boy behind that facade. Don’t attack that scared little boy, even if he scares you by showing up, and you think, “Oh god, is THAT what’s underneath all this crap?” Love him. The intensity of your emotions is scaring him. I am not saying hold back, or that you need to take care of him; I am simply asking you to recognize that your man’s toughness is only the shell he is using to protect himself.
- Men are linear. Women are awe-inspiring with your ability to go for it emotionally. You are willing to abandon the need to justify your feelings, and you are pure emotions. As men we are linear, particularly under stress. So when you start bringing in past events, that we think were resolved, our circuits start frying. We are thinking, “What the fuck?! We dealt with that!” Realize that we need to understand, and when the rational logic leaves the room, we become more confused and scared. As you know, this will set us off. You get a reaction from us when you aren’t making sense. All this is OK. Just know we really don’t know what to do at this point.
You can say to your man that you need to express. Tell him, OUT LOUD: “I just need to vent, and I don’t want you to fix it, or tell me what the problem is, or why I’m wrong to feel this way. I just. Need. To vent.” That little warning may allow for him to be prepared and frame your emotional expression in a way that allows him to be more present. When he knows there is nothing he needs to DO, and he has no task to perform other than to hear you, he can relax.
- Once you have released your charge – stop. After you feel the release of the built up emotions, stop and breathe. Let your man catch up to you. For him it’s like running the rapids, and he just rolled the kayak several times! He needs a breather so he knows where he is going. Giving him a few breaks will allow him to stay more connected to you.
We are all emotionally sensitive. How we experience and express our emotions will follow general patterns based on our sex. This dance of feeling, expressing and receiving is something you will be learning for the rest of your life. Developing relationships–real, deep relationships, where you feel connected–demands exposing your sensitivities.
We all need to learn how better to relate with our sensitivities. There is no tougher—or better—teacher than the opposite sex.
I have sat with hundreds of men over the years, and I can say no matter how tough we appear, we all have our sensitivities. We all hurt. Much of the work that occurs in men’s groups is the healing of those injuries and the learning of how to lead with our emotions.
Please share your thoughts and feelings about being sensitive. Where have you been hurt? How do you heal and move forward?
photo by DMahendra